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This homemade cream cheese frosting recipe is sweet and tangy and perfectly smooth. Use it to frost layer cakes, on top of homemade cinnamon rolls, swirled onto cupcakes, or even to pipe more detailed designs. Don’t limit this perfect cream cheese frosting to just carrot cake or red velvet cake!
Fun fact: I am a self-proclaimed buttercream queen. In fact, I love my go-to recipe for American vanilla buttercream so much that I actually dedicated an entire cookbook to American buttercream recipes, and it is one of my favorite resources for all of my very best tricks for making perfect buttercream frosting for any occasion.
In that cookbook, you will find this cream cheese frosting recipe alongside 25 other buttercream frostings that you can pair with all of your favorite desserts. With this simple recipe and all of my best tips, you, too, will be a cream cheese frosting pro faster than you can lick your beaters clean.
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS DELICIOUS CREAM CHEESE FROSTING RECIPE
If you are a home baker, a staple recipe you should absolutely have down pat is one for cream cheese frosting. It’s simple, uncomplicated, and the perfect complement to everything from pumpkin cake and lemon cake to red velvet cupcakes and red velvet cookies.
Plus, you can tint it any color you desire to turn your favorite cupcakes into something a little extra special. Not only that, but you can add any kind of extract or zest to turn up the flavor. See the “variations of cream cheese frosting” section at the end of this post to really amp up your cream cheese frosting game!
CLASSIC CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS
Cream cheese frosting ingredients rarely change when you compare different recipes. When you might notice, however, is that the ratios differ. I’m confident that my best cream cheese frosting recipe with perfect ratios will give you a reliable formula you can use every time you need to whip up a batch.
For this cream cheese frosting recipe, you will need:
• unsalted butter
• full-fat cream cheese
• powdered sugar
• vanilla extract
You’ll notice that unlike traditional buttercream recipes, you won’t be using any liquid when you make cream cheese frosting. This is because cream cheese, by nature, produces a fairly viscous frosting. We’ll get to how you can thicken or thin out your cream cheese frosting in a bit.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST CREAM CHEESE FROSTING RECIPE
The process for making cream cheese frosting is very simple. It can be ready to use in about 10-15 minutes if your butter and cream cheese are both at room temperature and ready to go.
Start by beating the the softened butter and softened cream cheese on medium-high until smooth, about 2 minutes. You can use a handheld mixer or a stand mixer to make this buttercream.
Next, reduce the mixer speed to low, then slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until everything is combined. Add the vanilla extract and salt and mix again until it is a uniform and smooth texture.
If you need a thicker consistency, you can either add more powdered sugar or some cornstarch. Do not exceed ¼ cup of cornstarch as you will start to lose the flavor of the frosting.
HOW TO DECORATE WITH CREAM CHEESE ICING
While this is not a crusting frosting recipe, you can absolutely still use it to pipe small, intricate lines or make elaborate borders on cakes. Again, use more powdered sugar or cornstarch to reach the desired consistency.
If you need it to be sturdy, always troubleshoot with the refrigerator first.
CAN CREAM CHEESE FROSTING BE USED FOR PIPING?
The smooth nature of cream cheese frosting means it pipes very nicely. That said, cream cheese frosting is a looser buttercream, so test a few lines before using it as is. If you need it to be firmer or sturdier, chill it in the refrigerator for about 30-45 minutes, test again, and then troubleshoot from there.
If you actually do need it to be thinner (unlikely given the ratios in this recipe), you can add a tiny bit of liquid at a time (milk or cream are preferred but water will also be fine).
HOW DO I MAKE MY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING THICKER?
Cream cheese frosting is a heavy and thick frosting as is, but if you need it to be thicker, always refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes first before adjusting any ingredients or adding more volume.
Thicken with powdered sugar or up to ¼ cup of cornstarch.
HOW TO USE THIS CREAM CHEESE FROSTING RECIPE
This cream cheese frosting recipe will pair very well with just about any cake, cupcake, cookie, or brownie out there.
Traditionally, cream cheese frosting pairs well with pumpkin, spiced, red velvet, and citrus recipes. But don’t limit it to just those flavors! Cream cheese may surprise you when it comes to flavors it complements nicely.
As written, this recipe will top 24 cupcakes or frost a 2-layer cake (I always suggest scaling it up a bit if you want more for piping!).
HOW TO PREVENT RUNNY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Runny cream cheese is almost always an error in cream cheese. Always use full-fat cream cheese and not a spreadable cream cheese from a tub. You also want to make sure you’re not using low-fat cream cheese, whipped cream cheese, or any kind of cream cheese mixture that includes other soft cheeses.
Full. Fat. Block. Cream. Cheese. Only.
You also want to make sure that your butter and cream cheese are only at room temperature and not the least bit melted. Warmer-than-room-temperature-ingredients will always result in a runny finished product.
SUCCESS TIPS FOR THIS CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Make sure you are using room temperature ingredients. If your butter is too warm, your frosting will be too loose and fall apart. It will also turn out greasy and unappealing. Absolutely do not use melted butter.
Do not leave out the salt. It may deter you, but I promise, even a pinch of salt will make a huge difference in the sweetness of your cream cheese frosting. I prefer ¼ teaspoon for a batch of frosting this size. Adjust your final result to your preferences.
Do not use the whisk attachment to make buttercream. You will incorporate too much air and your buttercream may be craggy and hard to work with.
Use good quality vanilla extract, not imitation. In fact, if you’re feeling really fun, you can use vanilla bean paste to really amp up the vanilla flavor and throw some vanilla flecks into your frosting. If you want to be sure your cream cheese frosting stays stark white, consider using clear vanilla extract. You can also make your own homemade vanilla extract!
Use gel food coloring to tint your cream cheese frosting as opposed to liquid food coloring. Gel coloring is what I prefer because it doesn’t thin out frosting like the liquid kind does.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING RECIPE FAQs
VARIATIONS OF CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Believe it or not, cream cheese frosting is the perfect canvas for so many other flavors.
Check out my brown butter cream cheese frosting, lemon cream cheese frosting on my lemon poppy seed sweet rolls, orange creamsicle frosting on my orange creamsicle cake, coffee cream cheese frosting on my coffee rolls, spiced cream cheese frosting on my chai cake, or maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting on my brown butter pumpkin cake.
MORE FAVORITES FROM FRESH APRIL FLOURS TO PAIR WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Easy Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
- 8 ounces (225g) full fat block cream cheese softened to room temperature
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3 and ½ cups (420g) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until smooth.
- Turn the mixer speed down to low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla extract and salt and continue mixing until smooth.
- If you need a thicker consistency, you can either add more powdered sugar or some cornstarch. Do not exceed ¼ cup of cornstarch as you will start to lose the flavor of the frosting. Store leftover frosting covered at room temperature up to 1 day or in the refrigerator up to 6 weeks. Frosting freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You may need to beat it for a minute or two to bring the frosting back to life.
All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.